Using Oral Language as a Support for English Language Learners

By Kathy Ha, Primary Literacy Trainer

  • The Power of the Home Language – Remind family members of the importance of speaking to their children in their home language.  All language is rule bound, redundant, and highly predictable.  If children build a rich control of their native language the school can use this foundation of language learning to support the development of the English language.
  • Value and Utilize Students’ Home Languages During Teaching and Learning Opportunities – When the class is fortunate to have more than one person (either teacher or child) who speaks the home language of the ELL then the student can use her first language to practice what she wants to say before stating thoughts in English.  A student can also ask for clarification of directions in his native language or can seek support in learning how to say a particular word or phrase in English.
  • Listen More Closely – Marie Clay said, “If a child’s language development seems to be lagging it is misplaced sympathy to do his talking for him.  Instead, put your ear closer, concentrate more sharply, smile more rewardingly, and spend more time in genuine conversation, difficult though it is.  To foster children’s language development, create opportunities for them to talk, and then talk with them (not at them).”
  • Create Numerous Opportunities for Talk – Classrooms should be places where meaningful student talk and student listening is fostered and encouraged.  Providing these opportunities will allow all students to build on their knowledge of English vocabulary and how the English language works.

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